By Sona Mason, West Hudson Program Coordinator
The relocation of the Highlands Trail in Chester, New York, is underway, thanks to the efforts of our volunteers.
The work began in February, when neither cold nor sleet nor deep snow stayed a group hardy of hikers from completing their mission: to traverse and blaze the newest section of the HT. Well, no sleet—just soft, deep, snow-shoeing snow. And a lot of smiles to be had. The reason: It was the first hike to blaze the new section of the Highlands Trail off a public road and onto new land recently preserved by the Open Space Institute (OSI). OSI was mandated to have this parcel open to the public before March, and these volunteers helped to ensure that happened.
A group was out again on April 26 to begin clearing the first part of the relocation, off Bull Mill Road. The goal is to create a sustainable new trail to link up with Goose Pond Mountain State Park, and the volunteers made huge progress on this trip, using hand tools and the Weed Wrench to bust through a blockade of invasive Japanese barberry and multiflora rose shrubs, clearing a 6-8-feet wide corridor along the edge of a turnpike above Trout Brook.
In honor of Earth Week, the trail-clearing crew made good use of found material and recycled half-buried soil fencing into a weed barrier for the trail tread (conveniently 2-feet wide). They also shuttled about 150—or so it seemed!—wheelbarrows full of wood chips to cover the weed barrier, creating a plush chestnut carpet of trail tread to stall regrowth of invasive weeds and ensure maintaining the trail will be a breeze.
The next work trip is scheduled for May 9. This section will be easier and faster going with fewer weeds. The work will include removing invasive shrubs to a depth of about 3-4 feet on either side of the trail, and laying the rest of the soil fencing down and covering it with wood chips.
Future work trips will be posted soon, and will involve more technical aspects of trail-building, such as side-hilling and wetland & stream crossings. If you would like more information or want to be on our mailing list, please contact West Hudson Program Coordinator Sona Mason: firstname.lastname@example.org or 201.512.9348 x16.